29 December 2011

Ringed birds in the Gambia part 3!

The increasing work done in Africa to find out about our declining migrants is picking up pace, with the BTO Cuckoos still going strong and the Out of Africa project. As mentioned in a post previously, a team of volunteer ringers have just returned from their third trip to Kartong Bird Observatory, The Gambia, in an attempt to gain more knowledge on our European passerines and gain more information on African birds.

I was part of the team, my second trip, and we managed to catch 1200 birds of 121 species during the 10 day ringing session. Good numbers of herons, raptors, terns, shrikes and African passerines were caught including 70 Long-tailed Nightjar and 50 Jacana. Most importantly 250 Western Palaearctic passerines were caught including Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Reed and Sedge warbler and a Nightingale (but without a data logger!). We also saw an Osprey with a satelite tag but were unable to read the colour ring.

Some birds were doing some very interesting moult while in Africa - one 1st winter Chiffchaff was actively finishing off a complete primary moult. As we know neither adults or first year birds are supposed to moult in their wintering quarters.

The team also proved some direct migration thanks to birds that were already ringed by other ringing schemes. The first was from a Sandwich Tern with a BTO ring that had been ringed on Coquet Island, Northumberland this year. We also caught a Sandwich Tern from Helgoland, Germany and a Sedge Warbler wearing a French ring. The next trip in January will focus on terns, waders and Acrocephalus warblers in the reed beds.

For more information on Kartong Bird Observatory see www.kartongbirdobservatory.org.

This was an amazing experience and if you wish to be considered for future trips (probably 2013) please contact Jez Blackburn (jezblackburn@sky.com) for more details and an application form. Note - you need to be a ringer and have good knowledge of moult!

Top picture- Squacco heron. Middle picture - Woodchat Shrike. Above - The team

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